Government should ratify the Marrakesh Treaty immediately to make production and international transfer of specially-adapted books for people with blindness or visual impairments easier, speakers at a consultation meeting said yesterday.
They also urged the government to ensure equal access for people with disabilities to all social services such as infrastructure, communication, transportation, information and technology.
The treaty does so by establishing a set of limitations and exceptions to traditional copyright law.
Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), Visually Impaired People's Society (BVIPS) and Benetech Book Share, the largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities, jointly organised the programme.
“Access for persons with disability must be ensured everywhere -- from transportation to toilet to education. We could overcome the challenge only if the society not only accepts them, but also promote accessibility for them,” said Shaheen Anam, executive director of MJF in her welcome speech.
Disability rights advocate Vaskkar Bhattacharjee of YPSA and Elizabeth Beaumon, CEO of Benetech Book Share gave separate presentations on accessible books and technology in Bangladesh and global perspective.
In his presentation, Vashkar Bhattacharjee, also the national consultant for the government's a2i project, showed the latest initiatives of the government to adopt accessible books for the persons with disability.
“All school textbooks from first grade to tenth grade have now converted to audio books. University of Chittagong has been declared as the first model university for persons with disabilities; we expect Dhaka University to be the second very soon,” Vashkar said.
In her presentation, Elizabeth Beaumon described easy and effective accessibility of Benetech Book Share online library in specialised book formats.
Using the platform, people with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers can customize their experience to suit their learning styles and find virtually any book they need for school, work, or the joy of reading.
“We want to ensure accessibility for people with disability," said Elizabeth Beaumon.
Dr Homiyar Mobedji, disability expert of Book Share (Asia and Africa) said there are three tasks: producing multimedia content, delivering those on a device and training up persons how to use those. “We are facing challenges in other countries similar to those in Bangladesh,” he added.
Talking to The Daily Star, Nazrana Yeasmin, programme coordinator of MJF, said, “As Bangladesh hasn't ratified the Marrakesh Treaty yet, transforming traditional books into digital format is prohibited under copyright act. Websites are not also accessible for persons with disabilities.”
World Health Organization (WHO)'s data show that there are four million Bangladeshis are visually impaired.
Conducted by MJF programme director Ria Roy, Monsur Ahmed Chaudhuri, ex-member of UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Zainab Chinikamwala, membership head of Benetech Book Share (Asia and Africa) and representatives from different disability organisations spoke at the event.